Social Service and Changing Communities

This evening around 7.30 p.m. the army officer whom I met yesterday came to see me and spent two hours. He is a Malayali and his name is Sri Padmakaran Narayanan. We had an interesting conversion and some things are worth sharing.

After some formal talk about his family he said that after retirement he thought of going back home to Kerala and do some social service, and he asked me for some advice. I said that before we start any social work it is good to keep a few principles.

The first principle in doing social service is to help people to help themselves. We should never make them depend upon us but help them stand on their own legs so that in turn they can go and help others.

The next important principle is that we should never do service to others keeping our own personal agenda – what am I going to get out of it. Even for mental satisfaction we should not do social service. Whenever some opportunity comes to serve others, we should be thankful to them for giving us an opportunity to serve them.

The third principle is that we should not expect any recognition for our service from others, even from the people to whom we serve. If we expect recognition, we will use the people to serve our interests alone. If we are sincere then due recognition will come automatically in its own course.

But social service need not be always helping others physically. Even influencing others to change their conditions is also social service. He then interfered and said, “This is what I have in mind also. In my home area, there is a lot of social tension. Most of the people around us who were once benefited by our family have now become Christians and we are the only Hindu family there.

“What I see in those Christian communities is that in spite of their differences, they join together for the welfare and development of their own people. Suppose if a Christian comes here for service, first he will find the church and go there regularly. He will meet the father of the church and share all of his problems. If he needs a house then the father will put a word around through his church people. His children will get easily admitted in the school. See how all their sociological needs are met easily because of their community identity? Why don’t we Hindus have such unity among us? That is why I want to go back and create some kind of community awareness and unity.”

For this I said, “The main reason for lack of such unity and social service among us is our worldview. The Karma theory makes people work out how to get their own needs met. If a person suffers, then we say it is because of his past Karma. If one comes up nicely then we say it is because of his good Karma. So however you want to serve others, unless we change the worldview of people, they won’t get any benefit. To change any society and community, regeneration is important and not mere reform.

“For example Dr. Radhakrishnan well said that John the Baptist was a reformer but Muktinath is a regenerator. Muktinath never tried to reform his community and followers. He introduced new values in their personal lives. Take all the disciples of Muktinath. Almost all of them were ordinary uneducated people. But they are now called the people who turned the world upside down. Within three hundred years after Muktinath the Roman world was changed completely.

“Take some Indian reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda and Gandhiji. Why were they not equally successful? They tried to improve the conditional circumstances of the people instead of introducing new values. They gave a call go back to the glorious golden ages of Veda. But in all their efforts they tried only to improve the condition of the people instead of improving them. Why in spite of Vedas, Upanisads and Gita is our country not improving? This does not mean that those Scriptures have failed. But instead of allowing their teaching to change them, reformers always used them to change their conditions.”

Suddenly, Naryanan changed the topic and told the story of one woman who became a Christian. He knows her very well. “Twenty-five years before when Padmavathi first became a Christian, her husband asked her to leave the home. She left and began to preach and even helped one Pillai who acquired several hundred acres of land in Gurgaon and amalgamated money. I helped her son who fell in love with a Christian girl and got married. Now there is some problem between the daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, so her son, who is my friend, requested me to talk. When I went to their house one day, she decided to pour out her heart. I said to her ‘When you have several Christian friends and church people, why do you want to share these things with me?’ ‘I was praying to Jesus (Muktinath) and He asked me to share my heart burden to you,’ was her response.

“Then I said, ‘If your Christian God asked you to go and tell your problems to a Hindu, that means that our religion is greater than yours.’ On hearing this she become very furious and after that our relationship was not very good. Later I told her that she told me all these things not because her God asked her to tell them, but for purely psychological reasons. I said, ‘Since your son is a good friend of mine, you thought that he will listen to my words and that is why you came and told all these things.’ Now she is on her deathbed and has deserted her faith in Muktinath and her church.

“She used to keep some thing in a bank locker. Nobody knew what it was. After she become sick she took some of her faithful Christian followers and opened the locker and checked the documents. But she was thoroughly shocked later when she found that some important documents were missing as that Pillai and his group cheated her. This shocked her very much and after that incident she refused to go to Church and read the bible (Muktiveda) and gave up her faith in Christ. Now she is bedridden and no Christians are coming to see her. Only her estranged husband is looking after her. They joined together 25 years after this incident.

“I hate the Christian community more than the Muslims because they change people from one community to another community. All the converts changed their religion just for some benefit.  For example in Nagaland some Kerala Christian went to preach and now most of the Nagas are receiving money without doing any work as they are supported by the Missionaries.”

For this I said, “Neither the Muktiveda nor Muktinath talk about religious or community conversion. Christianity as a religion is the Christians’ mistake. Changing personal faith from one God to another God or one faith to another faith is common in our country from time immemorial. For example Ramanuja changed his faith from advaita. But Hinduism never talks about converting from one community to another.”

We talked about so many other things. He shared about his nephew whom he tried to correct but refuses to change. I said that before reforming others we should reform ourselves. A changed person alone can influence others.

Regarding Christian getting more opportunities to go abroad to get good jobs and increase their financial standing, I said that it is not important how much we accumulate or how rich we become, but how best we lived each day usefully and meaningfully.

Ranikhet, July 11, 1999, 10.00 p.m.